Archive for April 14th, 2018

April 14, 2018

There is a nice place in the Aisne, Château Thierry!!!

On a quiet weekend, and rainy, humid and rather hot with temps up to 17C or about 65F ,I continue my travels with you of my belle France. I have come many times to this area, close to family and they worked in the Champagne fields here when young.  I have, also company business here to visit. Yes this is Château Thierry ; and yes it is in Champagne country still produce there.

Château-Thierry is in the department 02 of the Aisne in the region of Hauts de France .The town belong to Champagne until the French revolution. I have written before about the city in my blog, See post.

Located in the Marne valley in the middle of a great highway of regions and big cities like the railroad line Paris-Strasbourg and only 85 km from Paris. The autoroute A4 passes by the city exit Château Thierry/Soissons allowing connection between the city and Reims and east west routes. The D1 passes by the city north to south and connects the city with the north via Soissons and between the city and Troyes and Provins. My toll free favorite N3 (route d’Allemagne or road of Germany) crosses the city east to west and connects with La Ferté-sous-Jouarre and Meaux to the west and Epernay and Chalon en Champagne on the east; my hangouts. The traffic in the city is bothered by the problems of crossing the Marne river where there are only two bridges, one in city center and the other over the expressway. There is a train station or Gare de Château Thierry terminus of the line P Transilien Paris Est and also the regional lines Lorraine, Picardie, and Champagne on the TER trains.

A bit of history I like:

From excavation, they have found that there was an antique town here abandoned in the 3C or 4C, monies mentioning odomo fit discovered in the city attest to the fact there was important occupation in the period of the Merovingian’s. By the Carolingians period the area of the current Château Thierry was link to the powerful family of the Herbertiens. Herbert  Ier was a descendant of Charlemagne by Pepin of Italy and his mother inherits the powerful family of Thierry. The Herbertiens family was at the origin of the county of Champagne; by 910, Herbert II de Vermandois inherit from his grandfather and by 918 received from the marriage of Adéle, the county of Meaux.; it is from this time the dates the proofs of a fortified town with the name of Château-Thierry . At the death of Herbert II his son Herbert III aka the Old Count of Troyes and Meaux inherits the fortress of Château-Thierry with the county of Ornois and the abbey of Saint Médard de Soissons. Herbert III died around 980/984 without heirs and the king Lothaire shares the domaine amongst his nephews Eudes Herbert the young and Albert; Eudes I received the county of Ornois and the abbey of Saint Médard. At the death of Eudes I by 996, his son Eudes II follows and by 1004 inherits the county of Blois with Tours and Chartres and in addition Provins, Château Thierry, Reims , and the Tardenois. By 1021, he is the count of Troyes and Meaux by Robert the pious. Etienne youngest son succeeded him at his death in 1037. Etienne died in by 1044-1048 leaving to his youngest son Eudes III the possessions. Thibaud III his brother and count of Blois managed the affairs. Eudes III married in 1060, the sister of William the Conqueror, Adelaide. He participates of the conquest of England in 1066, his brother Thibaud III takes the possessions of the county of Champagne. William the Conqueror for compensate this lost, gives him the County of Aumales in Normandy and Holderness in England. Hugues I inherits the county of Champagne from his father Thibaud III in 1089 and becomes the first to carry the title of Count of Champagne. In 1025 he is made a templier and it is his nephew Thibaud II that received the Champagne. Between 1064 and 1124 Château-Thierry was held by a dynasty of knights name Hugues but from the arrival of Thibaud II the Champagne, Castle and the surrounding town belongs to the counts.

Château-Thierry is the site of an important battle in 1814, the Russian and Prussians armies were set back by the troops of Napoléon at Montmirail, the foreigners were trying to stop the French for passing the Marne river bridge, heavy combats are held even on the streets but the foreigners were set back to Soissons. The city was of the key points during the battles of the WWI in 1918 between the Americans and German troops. By June 1918, during the 3rd battle of the Aisne, the 10th colonial infantery division and the 2nd division of American infantery stopped the German offensive here . The city is ,also, the theatre of heavy battles during the Battle of France in 1940, the bridge in Chateau Thierry was defended by the Red Aspirant troops for which the new bridge carries their name.

Things to see in Château Thierry:

First, you have to come to the castle dominating the Marne valley, built from the 9C and heavily renovated over the years. Today, the old castle is a point of promenades/walks and holds a falcon spectacle that is very nice. The Church Saint-Crépin is the only Church in the city (many were destroyed during the French revolution). The Church was in the 15C located outside the walls of the ramparts but now it is near the city center. The clock tower is 36 meters high and can be seen from the banks of the Marne river. The tower or tour Balhan is a remained of the old mansion called the Hôtel du Mouton d’Or (built for a Balhan in 1480); the tower has a stairs ,and old Chapel and a prison room. What is left was restored from the Fort Saint Jacques residence of the Counts of Champagne that preferred it over the castle as when they came from Provins for a few days. The square tower is 33 meters high on top there is an octagonal arrow with tiles; to the east they are two smaller round towers with hexagonal roofs and to the west two small triangular pyramids fix on the tower. The interior stair leads you to the gothic Chapel and later the old prison room. From 1874, two cadrans completes the work as a town’s clock.

There is the Hôtel-Dieu former hospial of the city and today a museum ; the hospital was founded by Jeanne of Navarra in 1304. See the Mémorial Américain Aisne-Marne built in 1933 on the hill 204 about 3 km west of Château-Thierry, a monument that dominates the city and the valley with a great view. The native house of Jean de la Fontaine or Maison Jean de La Fontaine is the museum of Jean-de-La-Fontaine the story teller was born here in 1621, the author of the La Cigale et la Fourmi.(cicada and ant) See also, the city hall or Hôtel de Ville built in 1893 and open later by Raymond Poincaré, the public instruction minister at the time (later President of France). The house has a renaissance style architecture that was share by the judicial and public authorities. It is located in the place de l’Hôtel de Ville, where you will find the cinema theatre (art deco style), covered market, Protestant temple and imposing stairs to go up to the old castle. Here the Grand Rue, joins the square to go the native house of Jean de la Fontaine, and the rue du Château, that takes you past the gate or porte Saint-Pierre.

Temple protestant was during WWI was an American Methodist Church created to offered help to the American soldiers done with donations that allowed to built the temple in 1924. One of the stained glass on the Temple represent La Fayette, Foch, Joffre, Pétain ,and Nivelle. Château-Thierry is crossed by the tourist route of the Champagne called Vallée de la Marne connecting Château Thierry to Epernay , a distance of 90 km.

However, what brought me here was as initially stated the family is not far and as young even my wife worked here on the grapes of the valley of the Marne west Champagne appellation . At  Château-Thierry, you must visit the cellars of Champagne Pannier with instructive tours on the making of the bubbly inside medieval galleries carved out in the 12C and decorated walls with old engravings such as an archer from the 14C, that has become the symbol of the house. An impressive view here in English: Champagne Pannier 

Some webpages that will help you plan your trip here to follow as well as my favorite sites other than the bubbly !

At Château Thierry the house of the Franco American friendship in French :

American Memorial of Chateau Thierry:

Tourist and heritage page on the city of Chateau Thierry:

Tourist page on Chateau Thierry in English:!/?q=chateau%20thierry

The Aisne department 02 tourism on Chateau Thierry:

The region of Hauts de France tourism info in French (old Picardie is Chateau Thierry) :

Museum Jean de la Fontaine;

There you go, you all set to visit this nice town and a great bubbly. A bit of the east of my belle France. Happy travels, good health, and many cheers!!

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April 14, 2018

A town with a lot more than France,Angers!

Going or coming along my ways in my belle France, need to tell you about a town that was a pleasant visit, and even close by , so much to see ! The title is of more than France because here the Plantagenêt dynasty that a lot to do with England was started really!  So, let me tell you a bit on Angers ,on a cloudy warm day in my gorgeous Morbihan.

Angers is a city on the banks of the Maine river in department 49 ,Maine-et-Loire in the region of Pays de la Loire. The city is at the confluence of the Loir, Mayenne and  Sarthe river been the latter two which form the Maine river by the island of Saint Aubin and the course continues into the Loire river. It is located about 80 km from Nantes and 81 from Le Mans, 110 km from Rennes, and 265 km from Paris. Only at 123 km from the Atlantic ocean at Pornic and 143 km from the Manche in Normandy. Historical capital of the Anjou , birthplace of the Plantagenêt dynasty , and one of the intellectual centers of Europe in the 15C under the reign of the good king René.

Angers is located on three road axis ; the A11 between Paris and Nantes, the A87 towards La Roche-sur-Yon via Cholet and the A85 towards Tours. Rennes can be reach by the expressway D775; and the D761 connects Angers to Poitiers, and Niort. All roads well-traveled by yours truly.  Angers by its location on a major river such as the Maine has 8 bridges including a railroad bridge. You can count them north to south as the pont de Segré, railroad bridge; Viaduc de la Maine go around town via the A11; pont Jean-Moulin connects the area of Capucins  to the neighborhood of  Saint-Serge; pont Confluences connects the hospital district and the Gaumont multicinema ,and now reserved for the tramway, bikes, pedestrians and emergency vehicules;  pont de la Haute-Chaîne connects the old historical boulevards to the right bank; pont de Verdun, oldest bridge over the river connects city center to the La Doutre, since the 11C;  pont de la Basse-Chaîne, near the castle; and the pont de l’Atlantique, continuation of the roads along the river linking the city center to the districts of Lac de Maine, Belle-Beille, and west of the city since  1973.

The transport here is good, easy no major traffic jams ever encounter. The train station is Gare Saint Laud, the junction with Tours at Saint Nazaire and Le Mans; this is the principal station getting the TGV fast train to Paris-Montparnasse, and Roissy CDG airport. Also, to Nantes. The river transportation is nice due to a pleasure marina at Cale de la Savatte  welcomes cruiser and boaters and in summer even cruises up the Mayenne and Sarthe, and Loire rivers. There is free bike service for those living or working in the city with the VéloCité program network. It is,also, in the network EuroVelo6 or the Eurovéloroute des Fleuves  crossing over Angers and connecting  Saint-Brevin-les-Pins to Constanza Romania, going across Europe from the Atlantic Ocean tothe Black Sea passing ten countries and on the Loire, Rhine,and Danube rivers. In the dept 49 of the Maine-et-Loire, this route is part of the local Loire à Vélo. In town the bus network is done by Keolis and intercities by Anjoubus.

The city architecture can be told in the materials used for construction such as the schist and tuffeau chalk that makes Angers a city of black and white. The inner old town you have the concentration of historic buildings such as the Cité ,the oldest neighborhood with small narrow streets and houses from the Middle Ages. The neighborhood of La Doutre on the right bank is the richest in these types of medieval and renaissance architecture; the city center has buildings to the end of the middle ages to the 19C, sometimes in the Haussmannian style.

A bit of history  I like

The name of Angers was mentioned for the first time around the year 150 by Ptolémée in his work of Geography as Juliomagus. On the stone table of Peutlinger we find the name Iuliomago. Angers is again mentioned in the Middle ages under the name of Andecava civitas  and in the 5C as  Andecavis, Andegavis between  861 and 882,  Angieus in 1127, Angeus  in 1205 ,and  Angiers from the 12C. It was or is known as the city of flowers , the city white or the city black as well as the Athens of the west. The Bretons and the Vikings made incursions here and ransacked the town by 845 and again in 852. After the battle of  Jengland, Charles  the Bold king of the Francs and Erispoë, Breton chief get together in 851 to signed the treaty of Angers that gives to the Bretons the country around Rennes, Nantes, and Retz fixing the limits of Brittany. The last Caroligians, king of the Francs and counts of Anjou gives the management to viscounts from the end of the 9C. One of these, Foulques le Roux, becomes Foulques Ier d’Anjou in 929  and creates the frist dynasty of counts fo Anjou :from 1060, the Plantagenêt dynasty takes the title of Count with Geoffroy III the bearded, grandson of Foulques Nerra. Leading an empire that goes from the Pyrénées to Ireland.  Queen Blanche de Castille ordered built a fortress with a rampart of 3800 meters long on the two sides of the river ; the circle of ramparts in the lower empire starts by the 13C making the cité a military bastion that is closed to the laiques persons.

By 1360, the county is raised to Duchy and Louis I becomes the first Duke of Anjou. By 1434 starts the reign of the good king René duke of Anjou ,Lorraine, Bar, Count of Provence , king of Naples and Jerusalem.  It had built three mansions near Angers such as  Haute-Folie, Reculée ,and Chanzé,near Baumette, where he found in 1451 the convent of the Cordeliers,and he bequested at his death the tapestry of the Apocalypse to the Cathedral. In 1474, king Louis XI does a movement against the Good King René by coming to Angers as a friendly march with his army and camps outside ; the the king René too old to fight decides to give his kingdom without a fight and Anjou finally entered into the Royal domain. In 1619 ,king Louis XIII authorized Marie de Médicis to stayed at her court in Angers, and she comes to lived at the Logis Barrault; by 1620 there was the battle of Ponts-de-Cé  between the allies of the king and those of the mother ; rapidly the treaty of Angers is done and the king accepts the return of his mother to the court of France.

The war of the Vendée creates great damange and losses here with fighting between the revolutionary Republicans and the Vendéens royalists non stop to 1793; the terror come over with many deaths by firing squad at the champ des Martyrs near Avrillé; a guillotine is installed 1793-94 at the current square or Place du Ralliement. Eventually in 1807, Napoléon Ier ordered the medieval fortifications destroyed. During the WWI the city does not suffers much, while during the WWII , she gets involved allowing the Polish government in exile to be seated here at the Château de Pignerolle, becoming the de facto capital of Poland..From 1941, the Nazis make Angers the seat of their HQ of the west of France and later at Pignerolle the communication center for submarines. In 1942,Angers becomes the seat for the regional center of the Gestapo. On August 10 1944, the city is liberated by the US 3rd Army of General Patton.

Things to see in Angers.

The episcopal palace of Angers and the Palais du Tau, since the 9C at the top of the Cathedral is witness to the roman architecture. There is a ramparts wall gallo roman from the 3C of which a tower is preserved and the Synodal room roman, the gothic chimney , a library, a stairs from the renaissance period and an apartment from the 19C. You have the Hospital Saint-Jean d’Angers of hospital architecture located in the La Doutre neighborhood built back in 1180! With sick rooms of the gothic angevin style, built by the narrowest point in the river on a hill of schist, the Castle of Angers began in 1232 under Blanche de Castille as well as a circle wall today the boulevards of the city center . One enclosure has 800 meters long and 17 towers of several meters in diameter and about 30 plus meters high. The house or  maison d’Adam is very nice medieval house in wood and has two facades of 10 meters each on six floors located near the Cathedral taken its name from the historical Adam and Eve sculptured on the house with decoration of persons and animals.  The maison de Simon Poisson in the Doutre built end of 15C, Hôtel des Pénitentes  from flamboyant gothic end 15C to first and second renaissance periods. The before mentioned  logis Barrault  early renaissance style and one of the first mansions done between court and garden and wonderful facades.  There is also, the logis Pincé, from the first renaissance style, with two bodies  around a tower stairs. Built in 1871 the Grand Théatre in the Place du Ralliement, is of the Haussmanian style ,and transformation of the Second Empire. The abbey Church of the former Abbey of Ronceray is a major work of Roman art with a nave of the 11C well preserved and chapters with decoration of vegetable,animals and figurative scenes. In the old center or Cité you have the wonderful Cathedral of Saint-Maurice built early 11C with an architecture between the roman and the angevin gothic. It has important collection of tapestries shown in the building of Saint-Jean to the Saint-Maurice. The abbey Church of the former abbey of Saint-Serge is also representative of the angevin gothic syle especially its choir. The tower or tour Saint-Aubin is an old clock tower by the former abbey of Saint-Aubin.  Finally, the Church Notre-Dame-des-Victoires is a modern realisation built in 1899 in romano byzantine style with great luminosity and esthetiques interiors.


Church Saint Laud


Place du Ralliement Grand Theatre


maison d’Adam place Ste Croix Angers

The main green areas in the city are the Jardin des Plantes an English style garden around a stream bordered by shrubs and statues; the jardin du Mail,wide promenade with a model of a fountain shown at the Universal Exposition of 1855 and a French style garden  and the parc de l’arboretum  enclosing five gardens with different varieties of trees, flowers etc around 1500 species and 4300 trees.

There are museums, my favorites are the fine arts museum or musée des beaux-arts d’Angers, it is at the famous logis Barrault,with museum graphics and the history of the city, and upstairs the fine arts. Located in the former abbey Church of Toussaint,you have the Galerie David d’Angers  showing an important part of the work of Pierre-Jean David, aka David d’Angers. The collection includes the quasi totals of the shop models in plaster of the sculptur of the 23 statues shown, and the model of the fronton of the Panthéon, etc etc. Located in the Castle, you have the Galerie de l’Apocalypse  showing the trapesty of the apocalypse ordered by Louis 1 Duke of Anjou at the end of the 14C; retracing the apocalypse according to Saint John but showing as well the sociopolitical context of France during the war of Hundred years. It has 106 meters now from 140 meters at the original and still gives a rare look at medieval art.  The museum or musée Jean-Lurçat  as well as the contemporary tapestry Done in 1957, the tapestry of the cry of the world or Chant du Monde  is a series of ten tapestries on human destiny and as honoring the tapestry of the apocalypse.

And last but not least,  the library Toussaint has over 250K volumes of local heritage including psalms Caroligians from the middle of the 9C as well as 117 incunables where it has still ten in the world !, and the first printed book after the Bible of Gutenberg,in  1457. Printed in three colors blue, red and black. Just outside town in Marcé ,you have an aerodrome housing the regional museum of the airplane with several models of old light airplanes, it is at Angers-Marcé. Very nice place indeed but need a car.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip to this intriguing nice city by the Maine are here:

City of Angers in French info on right about museums and castle :

Tourist office of Angers in English:

Tourist info from the region department Anjou in English:

Region Pays de la Loire tourism on Angers in English :

There you go, now you are all set to come and visit, this is worth the detour and you will be glad you did. Happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all! Weekend is here once again!

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